Posted by: JanF | September 15, 2011

The GOP Brand, Part 2 – Opportunities for 2012

The GOP brand has been coated in Teflon for years. Can we put a scratch in that Teflon in 2012?

Yesterday, we looked at the GOP brand and what the face of the current Republican party looks like. Today we look at how we can make sure the Republicans are not allowed to rebrand themselves before the 2012 election.

As we discussed yesterday, the Republican party has always needed foot soldiers: people who do the grassroots work and the voter outreach needed to keep the party in power. The wealthy and privileged control most of the money but they still need voters to win elections.

In 2009, the monied interests in the Republican party allied themselves with the tea party movement. The tea party groups were funded and promoted by the GOP and their well-financed enthusiasm led to electoral victories in 2009 and 2010.

Their success in the 2010 mid-terms, enhanced by low Democratic turnout, led the tea party wing of the GOP to believe that they had a mandate to make major changes in government including union busting, privatization of government services and repealing the social safety nets including Medicare and Medicaid.

The electoral victories tipped the balance of power in a handful of states. Legislative chambers flipped, statehouses changed hands and governors whose ethics, ideology and intelligence were suspect were swept into office in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Maine and Florida.

What happened next was an epic overreach. And it exposed their end game.

The conservative end game used to be much more covert. Their electoral victory turned them into a stampeding herd of elephants without any controls and, sadly for them, allowed them to outrun their cloaking devices.

We have seen the ugly that is the GOP brand.

Pushing back … hard

The pushback started in Wisconsin after the attempts by Gov. Scott Walker to eliminate collective bargaining. Weeks of protests and a Great Awakening of the middle class have resulted in the recall of two Republican state senators bringing Democrats within one vote of controlling that chamber. Gov. Walker will be subject to recall in 2012 and activists are gearing up to start circulating petitions in November of 2011. Already some of Walker’s budget plans are being backed away from as Republicans in the state legislature realize that lashing themselves to the Walker Tea Party Ship of State might not be the smartest thing to do.

In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich rolled out Senate Bill 5, a union busting bill. That state has a referendum process that allowed voters to put the bill on the ballot in November to repeal it with what is essentially a citizen’s veto. The referendum to repeal SB 5 has majority support.

In Michigan Rick Snyder ran as a moderate and is governing like a dictator. Union busting, government takeover of municipalities, slashing educational funding while cutting corporate taxes have energized a group working actively for his recall.

What do these three states have in common? Recall elections, special elections, and petition drives are all going to keep the GOP brand, and the ugly face of the GOP brand, in the news.

Can’t recall but …

Other states that have extremely unpopular first term governors but no recall process are likely to keep the heat on as headlines like these appear in the news: Chris Christie disapproval climbs back home in New Jersey and Poll: Florida GOP Gov. Scott’s Net Approval Rating Plummets. How about Brutal numbers for Kasich or Maine Gov. Paul LeSage Approval at 38%? The brand takes a hit anytime the buyers are reminded of their remorse.

These states will not be able to cycle out their governors but Maine has 4 electoral votes, New Jersey has 14 electoral votes, Ohio has 18 electoral votes and Florida has 29 electoral votes. Anger at the GOP brand is not going to make the top of the ticket somehow appear “different” or immunized from the anger. In fact, anger at the GOP brand may energize voters who want to cast a proxy vote. In Wisconsin, 12 year incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser nearly lost his seat to a complete unknown when his race turned into a referendum on Scott Walker’s policies. Is there any doubt that Florida, where Republican Rick Scott has a 30% approval rate, will be a hard win for the GOP?

The signs of spring

The backlash has already started in some of the special elections this year. In New Hampshire where extremists took over the house, a special election gave an R+7 seat to a Democrat. In Wisconsin, a state assembly seat that had been Republican for 16 years was won by a Democrat and in Maine a Democrat won 2 to 1 in a district that the previous Republican office holder had won by 75 percentage points.

From the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC):

Two victories in two weeks may have been a coincidence, but three special election wins in states with GOP-controlled statehouses clearly demonstrates a trend of voters rebuking the extreme right-wing agendas pushed by Republicans.

In Jacksonville Florida, a conservative city that has not had a Democratic mayor in 20 years, Democrat Alvin Brown won in a squeaker.

The U.S. House of Representative’s seat in NY-26 has a special election next Tuesday that went from Solid Republican to Toss-up/Leans Democratic. This seat has been a Republican stronghold for most of the last 50 years.

Can we blow it? Why yes, we can!

We need to do two things to not blow this opportunity.

First, it is very hard to not be gleeful about the predicament that the Republicans find themselves in. Their brand really is in tatters and they keep digging deeper holes for themselves. The deer in the headlights look from the GOP freshmen in the House of Representatives and the refusal of Rep. Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee Chairman to back down from his 2012 Budget Plan present a huge opportunity for us.

But look at the definition of the word “opportunity”: “a good chance for advancement or progress”.

Not “yay, we won!” not “happy dance” not “spiking the football”: “a good chance for advancement or progress”.

Second, as we saw yesterday (in part 1), the Republican party has risen from the ashes over and over and over again. They have plenty of time to rebrand before the 2012 election which is still 18 months away. They have plenty of time to find a new message to sell to those who are going to vote in November 2012.

We can’t let them rebrand. We can’t let them find a new message.

Gentle pushback starts here

The recalls and referendums will keep the kettle simmering but we need to make sure that the Republican party’s bad policies stay in the news. We need to talk to our friends and neighbors and point out the 2011 GOP brand and make sure that people know that the 2012 GOP brand is the same old same old. And the same old bad.

I will share what famous blogger addisnana said about the failed theories that the Republicans are peddling:

The Republicans have been cloaking their economic and social arguments for retaining privilege for the wealthy and big corporations under a variety of guises. They glom onto social issues as wedges to drive the country apart. The peddle economic theories which conveniently get renamed every so often and have all the glitter and gloss of a magic bullet.

Reagonomics, aka supply side was once trickle-down theory. Before that it was the horse and sparrow theory. Here is John Kenneth Galbraith (from wiki):Mr. David Stockman has said that supply side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: ‘If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.’” Galbraith claimed that the horse and sparrow theory was partly to blame for the Panic of 1896.

Try these out:
• Republican economic theory gets described as the story of the horse and the sparrow. Fred and us are the sparrows.
• “Government is the problem” becomes “The government administers Medicare and Social Security”
• “A return to traditional values” is a return to the traditional value “Real Americans care about each other”

We need to keep our base energized and make sure that independent voters who turned away from the GOP Brand don’t turn back.

Can we do it? I think we can.

(A version of this was originally posted on 05/19/2011 at BPI Campus)



  1. One of the biggest challenges in 2012 will be hanging onto the Senate. We currently have a 3 seat majority and we are defending a record number of seats because of our success in 2006.

    One thing that the Republican overreach caused is that some of the endangered seats are much safer because Ohio, suffering from Kasich fatigue, and Michigan, suffering from Snyder disgust will probably re-elect Sherrod Brown and Debbie Stabenow.

    Is the GOP brand tainted? A lot will depend on the 2012 presidential nominee. If it is someone from the Crazier Wing of the Republican party, it will energize voters all the way down the ticket. I am not going to hope for crazy (because the edge of the cliff is too close for comfort) but I do hope that the Republican nominating process runs all through the summer up until the convention in Tampa.

    Republicans Run Amok as a long running TV show will bring good ratings … to us. 😉

  2. Dems need to shape and control messaging. Standing up to the GOP and pushing back is just the start. We need to shred tejadist lies with sharp and focused truths.

    o/t – Hi Jan! Look what the cat dragged in!

    • Great to see you, Trashy!

      Yes, we have a lot of great stuff to run on in 2012. The tendency might be to run on all of it and call it “Look how bad they are!!”. I would hope that we can focus a little better. It seems like the tea party rode “Keep your hands off my Medicare” to victory in 2010 and then Paul Ryan introduced his Medicare privatization plan and it passed overwhelmingly.

      Assuming we can keep from doing our own damage to Medicare, I would like to see us pound that truth home.

  3. Messaging is key…we are in an uphill battle against the RW propaganda machine…for 30 years they have built an awesome political machine, piece by piece, I do give them credit for that. It is going to be very hard to counter. People do seem to be slowly waking, I hope…It helps with the current crop of GOP nominees, can you say CRAZY…I heard the horse-and-sparrow theory a few years ago and use often to describe to friends…people used to ignore me as a rambling lunatic with pipe wrenches, but have noticed the last year people are starting to listen…Great work JanF

    • Heh, the horse-and-sparrow theory is the original trickle down theory. It’s funny that they both are scatalogical in origin.

      My favorite model in that vein is Marilin Monroe’s as Sugar in “Some Like it Hot”. She had a weakness for saxaphone players. They always used her for everything they could then left her with only a squeezed out tube of toothpaste. That’s the GOP, leaving the American people with the fuzzy end of the lollypop!

  4. I just heard this young lady and think she is fabulous.

    • Huh, I don’t see the youutube:

      • You forgot to rec the diary silly dog…

      • WordPress is very nannyish and does not allow Youtube embeds in the comments. Or photos. The best you can do is put in a link.

    • Ha ha, can’t embed videos? or are you talking about JanF, because I don’t know how young she is or if she is even a she….but I have heard people say she is AWESOME…is this like J Town’s sister city…Janistan

  5. Jan, this is a great analysis… but i share some of Glen’s concerns upstream. Our biggest liability is our marketing. We don’t seem to know how to communicate success to “the people.” The GOP continues to paint Obama’s presidency as a disaster, and I see a lot of win for them in that, because we seem to have no capacity to provide a simple demonstration of successes. People seem to be buying into Obama’s inability, and quite frankly a lot of “Democrats” seem strangely gleeful about that. It is scary to me, very scary, to think that our winning prospect is that Americans will figure out that Perry is a lunatic and Romney is a greedhead. Past experience suggests to me that Americans are just fine with such leaders.

    • I hear what you are saying, bubbanomics, but if it were just marketing I am certain that we could have hired someone smart enough to figure out the messaging years ago.

      The problem is the undoing of the messages that found fertile ground during the Reagan years. A charming actor convinced everyone that the government was bad and told them about people on welfare driving Cadillacs — bought with YOUR money!

      That fed into the part of people’s brains who just knew it: The Other was up to no good!

      When you plant seeds of distrust using a lot of manure you get some very fact-resistant weeds pretty quickly.

      We need to pull the weeds first before we have any hope of planting progressive values that won’t be choked out by the first Republican with helmet hair telling people that their problems are caused by not enough hate.

      I think it is turning around some. Rick Perry is a perfect vehicle for delivering a big batch of wake-up to sensible people.